Be Controversial! Aw Hell Naw!

Filed under: Blogging | |


Another topic that came up at the Social Media for lawyers CLE: should you be controversial?

Should you tackle politics, religion, and other controversial topics? Or, should you just steer clear of all this for fear of it biting you on your ass.

It all reminds me of Danny Kaye in The inspector General asking himself whether to be elegant, arrogant, or smart:

The argument against controversial topics

Of course, it will come back and bite you! Nothing on the internet is ever lost. Your diatribe for or against illegal immigration or the current upheaval in the middle east (how’s that for keeping the article evergreen!) may keep you from getting a job or running for office at some point. Prospective clients may reject you because of your strong opinions, or because you have any opinion at all.

Yes, of course that may happen. Worse still, you may be tarred with positions you have staked out in the past – even ones you no longer believe in!

Of course this goes both ways. Living in Colorado Springs, I have had prospective clients ask me during the first 10 seconds of the phone intake if I am Christian, because they only want to work with and patronize a Christian lawyer. One’s lack of an opinion or not wearing all your positions on your sleeve may eliminate you from some jobs. Like it or lump it, it is just the reality of running your own office.

The argument for controversial topics:

Bland is boring. No matter what you do, there is a bigger firm, with a bigger advertising budget, and a nicer office. If you plan on beating them by being bland, not staking out any positions, and not having an opinion about anything, good luck!

While you can differentiate yourself on many different areas, one of the easiest is your personality. You already have a personality and for better or worse, it probably is not going to change.

In doing mock interviews and University of Denver last year, I was flabbergasted by how boring each and every candidate tried to make him or herself. No goals (other than the success of my firm), no organizations, no causes, no passions. Just boring vanilla, tapioca, white bread, blaaaaaaaaah….

With some prodding, I got one of the candidates to tell me about her involvement with Hispanic issues in the community. “Finally!” I said to my self.

What if the firm doesn’t want a Hispanic activist in their office?

Well other than the firm being just too stupid for words — diversity is an opportunity for inroads to a community the firm may not otherwise have access to — the candidate probably would not be very happy there.

The same goes for blogging. Being a right wing, vegan, feminist, gun-totting, furry blogger may turn off some prospects, employers, or even clerkships. However, it may be exactly what someone is looking for either because they agree, or because they are looking to counter-balance their firm’s mono-culture.

Wrong = Opportunity. What if you change your mind? What if you no longer hold the beliefs you previously espoused?

Fifteen years ago, I wrote diatribes against the insurance industry. Now, I am trying to get a job with an insurance defense firm!

This isn’t a problem, it’s an opportunity! Write about how you were wrong. Talk about the opinions you held during the halcyon days of youth and how they changed over time. It shows a maturing of viewpoints and that your opinions are considered and not based only on knee-jerk emotional responses. Plus, there is no fanatic like a convert, so why wouldn’t I want to hire someone like this?

Ultimately, it is a purely personal choice. You already know which way you lean. So just pick the arguments you prefer in favor of either position and go ahead and create content.

Creative Commons License photo credit: how will i ever